Greetings from the 15th floor! Home of stem cell transplants, blood cancers and solid tumors! This floor is a welcomed change from the 16th floor penthouse. There is no palliative care done here, people are up and moving, and I have already seen a few people that are my age.
The last time I was on floor 16, I saw six people pass away and be escorted off the floor. There families were in mourning and the air was heavy. As I have mentioned previously I found it incredibly difficult to separate their experiences with mine. My morale was affected, and I felt guilty about the intensity in which I was fighting for my life, and I knew that this environment could be detrimental to my motivation.
When I left the hospital I advocated for myself and told my nurse about my experiences. I requested that I be placed elsewhere and she honored it. Unfortunately the week I was there, there apparently were more palliative cases than normal. Typically the floor is inhabited by more patients with blood Cancer and solid tumors, however during my stay they were few and far between.
Now that I am on the 15th floor ,the ambiance is very different. Don't get me wrong- this is still a Cancer ward- and for many here- the stem cell transplant is the result of the fact that all other options have failed. That being said, the people I share the floor with are gladiators. They are fighting day in and day out for their lives desperately trying to beat this nancy bitch. I feel affected by the energy here and I am liking it.
Aside from the type of population that are on this floor there are some other differences. For one, my room is a bit smaller and doesn't have the three floor to ceiling windows that overlooked my beautiful city. Instead I have one small window that faces the Water tower and Michigan Avenue- still not too shabby.
Due to the fact that many people on this floor have literally no immune system, there are a lot of sanitary requirements that were not enforced on floor 16. There are double doors to the entrance of the wing, washing stations outside every room, and all doctors and nurses have to wear garbage bag looking gowns in the case I was to projectile vomit, bleed, or excrete any other type of nasty fluid- delightful. I should also mention they more frequently wear masks, and they refuse under any condition to detach me from my Chemo drip- not even for a second to remove my tank top! This place is strict. To be honest, I would rather that they be overly cautious- there are some very delicate fighters in this place that need all the protection they can get.
Some of the patients here have caught a bacteria called (VRE) from being in the hospital for extended lengths of time. Many of the patients on this floor that are receiving a stem cell transplants- are here for over a month and sometimes two!!! Staying in the hospital for extended lengths of time, with little to no immune system, makes them more susceptible to picking up what many of us are able to more easily fight off. I will have you know that my neighbors x, y and z all have it. Apparently there are no real symptoms to this bacteria but the hospital is being very careful at monitoring who in fact is carrying it. I am carefully being watched which means I get to experience lots of invasive tests that force me to again check my modesty at the door.
The nurses on floor 15 have been equally as admirable and competent as on floor 16. Some are complete characters. Last night I had one nursing assistant that shamelessly hit on Marc and even went as far to ask what perfume I was wearing in the hopes that if she lathered herself with it she would have a chance. This went on for twenty minutes, was all in jest, ridiculously over the top- and gave Marc and I a good and well needed deep belly laugh. I have no doubt Marc loved the attention.
Today I have a triple brunch date with some friends that have come in from Atlanta. I find it liberating to schedule plans while I am here- it helps create a sense of normalcy in a far from normal environment. Later this week I have yoga/meditation taught by the thoughtful and giving Becky Strauss, therapy, and a meeting to discuss nutritional needs with two good friends of mine. By scheduling my time in the hospital, I am distracted, and the hours go by incredibly quickly.
I cant even believe it's already day 2.
In addition to having a pretty active social life while I am in patient I have realized the importance of creating a home in the space where I currently exist. This round I have printed out a ton of photos from facebook, quotes from Ethan that inspire me, and decorated the room with keepsakes that I feel are important. These relics re from my world travels, from simchas, from milestones in my life. I also have 2- 8.5 x 11 sheets that are double sided with pictures of places I want to go, goals that I want to achieve, and my favorite foods that I long to eat.
These photos help keep my eye on the prize and remind me of what my life is going to look like without Cancer.
I can't wait for that day. In meantime I will continue to visualize myself getting there, slowly and steadily climbing up this mountain with so many friends and family from around the world cheering me on for each and every step. Every day, every breath, and every moment that I fight, I am getting closer and closer to putting this behind me.
Your shouts from near and far make this journey all the less scary.
I am so grateful for you.